End Note

Pretty in pink

During the academic year, the stainless steel tables in The Anlyan Center’s anatomy labs hold the “donors” who have offered their bodies for the education of future doctors and physician associates. For most medical students this introduction to medicine is a charged and emotional experience. In May the students who completed this first-year course spent two days wrapping pink fabric around the tables where they’d dissected the human body. Their inspirations were the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, known for their wrappings of such public spaces as the Pont Neuf in Paris.

“To mark the school year’s end, student artists have this time wrapped the lab itself, transforming this familiar space and raising critical questions about our relationship to anatomy,” wrote Ryan Blum in the program for the installation, called Recovering the Anatomy Lab. The installation was open to visitors for about two weeks in May and June. “What is hidden in the site of dissection? What damage have we done, and how can we make amends? Can and should the lab be made beautiful? What about ourselves is changed? How can we help future classes of anatomy students with this difficult practice?”

About 50 students gathered to bind the anatomy tables in bolts of fuchsia cloth, said Michael Otremba, who conceived of the idea with classmate Lauren Graber. “It’s a sterile, metallic environment,” said Otremba, adding that students wanted to comment on what he called “an emotionally significant time.” The choice of pink was deliberate. “We wanted to be playful.”

“I think it’s delightful,” said William B. Stewart, Ph.D., associate professor of surgery (gross anatomy), who has been guiding Yale medical students through the human body for 30 years. “Art is all about people coming to grips with their feelings.”

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